Dirty Design and Perverse Parody: A Retrospective


Dirty Design

Franklin “Boobs & Butt” Barber (1894-1952), while relatively unknown today, was at one time America’s most beloved pornographer. Shortly after dropping out of The Royal College of Art in 1913, he moved to New York City to produce short, sexy booklets featuring cartoon characters in compromising positions. After achieving some success, Barber decided that these “Tijuanna Bibles” could do more than simply titillate–they could also educate. It was under this notion that Barber began to produce pornographic titles based on the works of some of the greatest artists to ever paint. It is these books that we have selected to digitally restore and reformat here in our retrospective for easy reading on digital devices. Enjoy.

21--Perverse Portraiture copy 2

Picasso’s Clueless Cuckold (1939): Let us start off our retrospective with the book that he is perhaps best known for(despite his tendency to use pseudonyms). It is not hard to see why this 8-pager was able to make such a splash with audiences in the late 30’s. After all, Pablo Picasso was fast becoming America’s most popular artist, and with the men overseas fighting the war, infidelity was the country’s hottest craze.

21--Perverse Portraiture copy 321--Perverse Portraiture copy 4

DaVinci’s Dirty Den (1931): The oldest book in our collection, and certainly the most costly for Barber to produce. By this time, he had begun to make a name for himself with his best-selling Felix the Cat booklets, but still held aspirations of expanding into fine art.  This dream, of course, led to the body of work for which he is celebrated today. Since this piece was the first of these ventures, Barber decided to take a leap of faith and print the book in full color.

21--Perverse Portraiture copy 8

21--Perverse Portraiture copy 5

Pollock’s Bollocks (1948): This book is the last item in our collection, and in fact the final 8-pager Barber ever produced. It is generally considered to be the author’s crowning artistic achievement–his magnum opus, if you will. In this book, he was able to perfectly mach Jackson Pollock’s Chaotic simplicity with a story that, while clear and concise, remains enigmatic and oblique.

21--Perverse Portraiture copy 6

Brandon Hicks is a writer, cartoonist, and generally unemployed person living in New Brunswick, Canada. He sometimes posts things to his Twitter, which can be found here. Brandon is Comics editor at The Rumpus. More from this author →